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Pre 2012 Archives

Divestment Campaign: “Gates Foundation, Stop Giving with One Hand and Taking with the Other!”

Story by Bobby Righi and Kristen Beifus, with photos by Richard Hodgin

On Thursday, May 14, Royal Dutch Shell brought its Arctic oil rig to Puget Sound amidst huge and growing protest. PSARA is part of the protest voices and has taken part in hearings, flotillas, and the Terminal 5 action.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has over $1 billion invested in fossil fuel, including Royal Dutch Shell. Despite the Gates Foundation’s commitment and support for global health programs around the world, they also invest in the very industries which are expediting global warming and putting the very communities they are serving at risk of vector-borne diseases, drought, storms, food scarcity, rising seas, and war.

In an annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates wrote: “The long-term threat [of climate change] is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively – right now – to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide.”

The Gates Foundation needs to put their money where they claim their values are. The Guardian newspaper has called on the Gates Foundation to re-align its priorities and divest from fossil fuel over the next five years and to not invest anymore in the fossil fuel industry.

Bill McKibben and 350.org started the call for divestment from fossil fuel companies in 2012, and it has grown rapidly around the world. Students, church members, and citizens have organized to convince universities, churches, and cities to sell their coal and oil company stocks. The University of Washington in the last month joined close to 30 colleges and universities that have turned toward a positive future for our planet. This recent divestment is modeled on the success of antiapartheid divestment in the past, which exposed the companies involved, curbed their vast lobbying power, and created the political will for widespread change.

This movement raises awareness of the devastation caused by burning the fuel that is in reserves controlled by international oil companies. These reserves contain three times the amount of carbon that we can burn and still hope to keep our atmosphere from heating so much it becomes catastrophic. And energy companies are still searching for more — helped along with $5.2 billion a year in U.S. government subsidies!

The Guardian has begun a petition campaign to urge the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust (which holds tens of billions of dollars in fossil fuels) to stop and re-invest in our shared future. The petition campaign calls on Bill Gates to become a climate leader and divest from fossil fuels. They are neighbors and should be hearing from us too. Here is how you can sign on: http://350.org/guardian-launchesfossil-fuel-divestment-campaign/

Kristen Beifus & Bobby Righi serve on the PSARA Executive Board. Kristen co-chairs the PSARA Environmental Committee and Bobby is a member of the Environmental Committee. Richard Hodgin is also a PSARA member.

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